Sunday, June 19, 2011

August- Connections

In Gerri August's Making Room for One Another, she writes about the need for schools to cultivate an environment where students are able to "evaluate social and political practices according to principles of democratic ideals, and, further, to equip students to become active agents in the transformation of society," (page 2).  Gerri states that teachers can cultivate this type of environment by questioning dominant ideology through dialogical discourse instead of monological discourse.  This means that teachers should teach students about diversity so that they can question the status quo and eventually be able to transform society in a way that values that diversity. Teachers should "model, facilitate, and confirm social acts of motivational displacement," (page 5)

As I spent time reading these chapters, I couldn't help but connect it to Lisa Delpit's Other People's Children. Most evident, is that I believe both August and Delpit recognize that a culture of power exists and that this culture of power must be challenged in order to create an evironment where all diversity is equally valued.  In Other People's Children, Lisa Delpit states that there is a "culture of power" made up by white, middle/upper class people and that they are the ones with the ability to establish the rules of normalcy. This idea of the "culture of power" is also reflected in August's piece.   August's concept of "otherization" reflects the notion that a culture of power exists and has the power to establish societal norms.  Students who do not fit in with the culture of power can be "otherized" and it is up to teachers to eradicate this.  August states that "any instance of otherization not only threatens the targeted individual but also obstructs social progress in that, by excluding an individual from participation in public deliberations, the perpetualization and institutionalization of oppressive practices go unchallenged," (page 5).  This demonstrates that both August and Delpit acknowledge that a culture of power exists as well as the need to rise against this culture of power in order to challenge and break the status quo.

Another connection between August and Delpit was in the value they place on explicit teaching.  Delpit writes that teachers must explicitly teach students the rules and codes of power in order to make them successful in the larger society.  While August doesn't make mention of explicitly teaching rules and codes of power, she does place emphasis on the explicit teaching of dialogical discourse.  She writes about how Zeke encouraged dialogical discourse through morning meeting as well as through curriculum (ex. unit plans on family and heroes).  Zeke had to explicity discuss with students things that went against societal norms (such as differing family structures) in order to model motivational displacement so that students can eventually question and break down norms on their own. Despite the different manner August and Delpit use explicit teaching, both highlight the importance of explicit teaching in order to teach students how to fight against the status quo.

Finally, I could not help but thinking about Delpit's rule of power that those with the least amount of power are usually most aware of it while reading about Cody.  Cody appeared to feel that he was different in a negative way and was very aware of this in his interactions in the classroom.  This self-view caused him to appear shy and unwilling to share about his personal life because he felt different.  Since he was not a member of the culture of power because he was adopted and had two moms, he appeared to feel powerless.  I think Delpit would agree with how Zeke handled issues of diversity since he validated everyone's culture, race, opinion, family structure, etc.  This validation and instruction of dialogical discourse appeared to make a difference for Cody.  I was so happy to read that Cody finally willingly acknowledged his two moms and his adoption at the end of the reading. This made me feel optimistic that teachers can help children see the value in all traits/people regardless of if they are not the same as one another.

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